Suffused with dull politics, poor ratings should comes as no surprise
One of the phrases I find least convincing is “go woke, go broke” – the comforting idea that promoting fashionable causes is bad for a company or individual, when in most cases it’s clearly not. Woke capital remains very successful and pinkwashing works.
Hitching your brand to anti-racism or equality or whatever doesn’t hurt if you’re just one competing individual or firm in the marketplace. Where it can go wrong is where politics invades shared communal traditions and spaces; then you may well go broke, or at least people will switch off.
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The reason for this year’s Oscar ratings hardly need explaining; cinemas have been closed for over 12 months and many people are barely aware of what films have come out. In fact large swathes of the American public had have never heard of the Best Picture nominations.
Yet the Academy Award ceremony has been in decline long before Covid arrived, down from over 40 million until 2013 to under 30 million in 2019.
There are two obvious factors, one being media dispersion, so that people don’t all watch one or two popular shows but instead a number of different, less-popular shows; many also catch up days later. Another is the decline in cinema-going since its last golden age in the 1990s, when television has been ascendent with the arrival of The Sopranos, The Wire et al.
It seems plausible that politicisation plays some role; the Oscars was never a politics-free zone, but it has become far more openly political since the start of the second Obama term in 2013. That year was considered the beginning of the Great Awokening (and when New York Times references to keywords such as “racism” and “white supremacy” suddenly rise rapidly).
Ever since then the ceremony has been quite overtly political, and it’s off-putting. One producer told the New York Times that they can see “vast swathes” of people turning off whenever celebrities begin droning on about politics. (Audiences for the television Emmy awards have also collapsed, and that has also become increasing political.)
Who wouldn’t? No one likes being lectured to by someone who is a thousand times richer than them. It’s incredibly irritating, but more importantly it’s also an inappropriate setting for politics.
The difference between the totalitarian political mindset and the liberal one is that the former wants their ideology everywhere, all the time, so that there is no escape: they want social justice causes discussed in children’s books, they want it at football matches, they want it in the office, they want it endlessly disseminated in schools.
There are appropriate places for politics, and there are spaces where it should be avoided, because it’s rude and arrogant to assume everyone agrees with you.
People living in democracies can surely expect to have neutral, non-political settings where they can enjoy themselves without highly contentious issues being raised? Otherwise, who can blame them for switching off?